I will address some of the points that arise from the issues surrounding consultation and, in order to be expeditious, will make straightforward points.
We fundamentally assert that the consultation process has been flawed. I recognise what Deputy Imelda Munster has been saying about the experience. There is a difficulty in that when consultation is not on a statutory basis, when it is almost as a courtesy and there are no rules, it can turn out to be a smokescreen.
Deputy Catherine Murphy asked if we would share our experiences of the consultation process. It arrived in our world sometime around April when the NTA went public on its plans. In short order there was a very short form of consultation available to us locally on the Charlemont stop at the Hilton Hotel. There were also occurrences on the north side, but, in effect, what it amounted to was a presentation on the boards of their its document. There were no answers to questions. If I asked a question about traffic flows, the data for Dunville Avenue or how they would impact on the tightly geared village of Ranelagh, I was simply told that it did not have that data. In very short order we were invited, with everybody else, to make a submission by 11 May. We met that date, having come together quickly as a community, but we have heard nothing back. We are entitled to rely on the NTA's document which states: "Following a full appraisal of the feedback, a public consultation report will be published by the end of 2018". Therefore, we think there will be serious concern that 8,000 submissions have been made and we have not heard anything about it.
It is not as if the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, are digesting the submissions alone, but it is rolling on in the manner of a headlong driverless train because at this committee on 20 June the deputy chief executive made a statement in reply to Deputy Robert Troy - I have the transcript - that it would publish a new upgrade proposal by June. At this point we are in consultations, but now it is jumping ahead towards a new publication date. As it happens, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, made a statement in the Seanad in which he referred again only to the notion of a digested or composite report coming out towards the end of the year. Nevertheless, the NTA is pushing on. On 9 July, in a letter to Senator Kevin Humphreys, its deputy chief executive stated baldly there would be no bore - the underground system - beyond Charlemont station into Ranelagh and all of the rest. How can he make statements such as this if we are still engaged in consultation?
The other side of consultation is communication and access in some form. On 11 May, when we made our submission, we requested a follow-on meeting with the NTA. We had a number of our representatives request that the NTA meet us. The Minister made a statement in the Seanad in which he said he felt it would be inappropriate for him to meet us but that he would convey our request for a meeting to the NTA, but we have heard nothing from anybody. The question was asked as to whether we had heard anything back about the new floated proposal which had been presented to Oireachtas Members. The simple answer is "No". We have heard nothing; it has been in the ether, but we have nothing with which we can deal.
Deputy Imelda Munster's suggestion of a liaison officer with the authority, who would access and could give us some data is useful because the further point we would make is that a number of members have asked whether there could be an alternative route through Firhouse or elsewhere. In a way we find that surprising because as far as we see it, there is only one game in town and that is the preferred route that has been published. We have no data with which to engage for any other possibility. For example, if we consider what Senator Kevin Humphreys said about the Firhouse route as an alternative, €800 million has been spent on the Luas green line. According to the NTA's stated position, the reason it must have a high speed, driverless MetroLink to Sandyford is that it must service the growing demand, with a link to Cherrywood. Here are some simple facts. As a concept, the development at Cherrywood is wonderful, but what is proposed, as per the description, is that within a decade there will be 30,000 people living there. There are actually 30,000 sons and daughters going to University College Dublin, UCD, to a campus of equal size. If the other direction was looked at to deal with the issues of people living in Terenure, Rathfarnham and Firhouse, the facts are that there are 46,000 people living in Lucan, as opposed to the 30,000 who will live in Cherrywood. According to the 2016 census, the Tallaght catchment area has a population of 287,000, the equivalent of the population of Galway, Waterford and Limerick put together, who survive on the equivalent of the green line, namely, the red line. There is no sustainable argument that Sandyford cannot be serviced by the green line. If there is new, fresh capital to spare, we argue that there should be a move to provide services to Terenure, Rathfarnham, Firhouse and Tallaght, where I worked for 30 years, to provide a new benefit. That is what people call a win/win.
The point Ms Gilmore is making is that there are two kinds of people. There are people who are resident adjacent to the current Luas line and somewhat aware of the proposal. They are increasingly becoming aware of it, but they do not all know because their communities are coming to life. There are others who use the Luas every single day and have built their life plans around it and they do not know at all. Let us take young people living in Charlemont or Ranelagh who say they want to buy a starter home. As they have a job with Facebook in Sandyford, they will take the Luas to get there. They do not need to buy a car, which is good for them and the city. They do not have an idea that they will lose this system on which they have built their life plans for nine or 12 months or however long it will be. We cannot say how long it will be because we have not been told. It is a major hit. Coming to Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's suggestion of collecting ideas and making a strong recommendation - we would welcome the committee doing so - if we, as citizens, want to change our front gardens to put a car in the driveway, we have to post a notice to let people know. In order to reach out to all of these people to let them know, why should the NTA not have to have a graphic at every Luas stop along the way detailing the current plan and explaining in three points or so what it plans on doing, indicating which crossings will be closed and for how long the Luas will not be available? Citizens are entitled to know this information, rather than waking up one morning and asking where is the Luas. In terms of consultation, the different parties involved truly deserve to have the information. It is not available and we cannot access the NTA. Therefore, we would appreciate any effort the committee could make on our behalf to tell the NTA that it has to respond to these questions.
On the August date, we assert that it is highly inappropriate. The Oireachtas is in recess. Many people have to take their break at this time.
To say they will come back and drop something on the table at the end of August when we are working to a schedule whereby, as they told us in their document, it would come towards the back end of 2018 is entirely premature. Part of the committee's recommendations should be that proper consideration should be given, the report should be given to us, and that this should happen in the autumn rather than in August.